For the week of February 24, 1999  thru March 2, 1999  

Road closures trap visitors Sunday

Overnight stays a boon for local lodges

Express Staff Writer

f24roads.jpg (7992 bytes)Heavy snowfall Thursday was blamed for at least 10 minor accidents, including this slide-off on Elkhorn road near Lane Ranch. Closing the highway south of Bellevue may have prevented even more accidents Sunday, according to Sheriff Walt Femling. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Ferocious winds and densely falling snow caused the closure of all roads leading south out of the Wood River Valley Sunday night.

"Visibility was absolutely zero," said Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, who called the scene a "mini-disaster."

Femling said snowplow drivers, one of whom reported his truck having been blown across the road, described the conditions as the worst they had ever seen.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, State Highway 75 was closed from south of Bellevue to six miles north of Shoshone between 4:15 p.m. Sunday and 8:25 a.m. Monday. The department reported that U.S. Route 93 was closed on both sides of Carey, from about 6 p.m. Sunday to 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Galena Summit was reported open during the storm, though an avalanche just south of the summit blocked the south-bound lane late Sunday afternoon.

Numerous accidents occurred throughout the day, but police reported no serious injuries.

Motels in Hailey and Bellevue were filled with people unable to head home after the weekend, Femling said. An emergency shelter was set up at the county’s minimum-security detention facility in Hailey, and two families spent the night there.

Twenty-four stranded travelers were reported put up at the LDS church in Carey. Stake president Spence Ellsworth said church members brought in blankets.

Femling said that when his office received a call about a possible heart attack occurring in Carey Sunday night, a convoy, consisting of a snowplow, a Sheriff’s Department vehicle and an ambulance, was put together to reach the victim.

Femling said the Sheriff’s Department was flooded with calls during the night and early morning Monday asking when the roads would be open.

"I think that by closing the roads, we kept from having a whole bunch of accidents," Femling said. "Around the state, you were just hearing about disaster after disaster."


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